When your loved one receives a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia, you might wonder what your next steps are. While you certainly need to find support and resources to empower you to advocate for your loved one, you also can begin to look for ways to keep your loved one safe, healthy, and engaged for as long as possible.
It is never too early or too late to begin looking at memory care as a senior living solution for your loved one.
Even if your loved one is safe to live on their own at the moment, dementia is a progressive disease, which means that eventually they’ll need extra support and assistance in order to stay active and healthy. For many seniors, memory care communities offer the perfect mix of specialized environmental details, specially trained staff, and personalized assistance.
When you’re ready to begin researching memory care communities in your desired location, it’s important to note that not all communities are created equal. Although most are regulated on a state-by-state basis, memory care communities do not always offer the same amenities, support, and resources to residents.
Here are a few things to look for during your tour to ensure you are making a wise decision.
A Welcoming and Clean Memory Care Environment
Memory care communities offer a comforting experience from the start, and exceptional memory care communities feel just like home from the moment a visitor enters the building.
A bit of genuine hospitality goes a long way in setting the tone for your loved one’s memory care experience. A few observations can help you determine if the community you are touring is dedicated to a welcoming, clean, and home-like environment.
First, look for a friendly team member who greets you at the door and warmly welcomes you into the community.
Next, observe the environment to see if there are cozy touches like door decorations, a coffee pot, and lovely artwork. Listen for music playing and add extra points if a community has seasonal aromatherapy throughout the community.
Lastly, ensure the community is clean and comfortable. Say no to a community that has a strong odor, has dirty floors, or is generally too clinical looking.
Remember, a memory care community should feel like a home, not a hospital.
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Genuine Relationships Between Staff and Residents
Person-inspired care begins with a true and genuine relationship between memory care team members and residents. It’s this commitment to getting to know the history and preferences of each individual resident that will set one memory care community apart from others.
Look for residents and team members interacting with one another in the hallways, dining room, and everywhere in the community. Listen for shared jokes, encouraging responses, and team members calling residents by name.
You’ll be able to see and feel when a community is built on these genuine relationships, and those relationships are what you are looking for when choosing a home for your loved one.
Delicious and Adaptive Dining Opportunities
Nutrition can be tricky as dementia progresses, but that doesn’t mean that residents should have a less dignified dining experience. In fact, the best communities are ones that use creativity and flexibility to find unique dining adaptations for every resident, so everyone has the opportunity to enjoy a nutritious meal.
During your tour, take note of the dining room. Make sure it feels lively and social, with neighbors and team members chatting in between sips of coffee or bites of a meal. Look at a menu to ensure there are multiple choices offered throughout the day so that residents can pick what looks good to them at the moment.
Ask what types of adaptations team members make for residents who are too antsy to sit for a full meal or who have swallowing difficulties. There should be dignified and creative approaches for every resident who might have dining challenges.
Finally, ask if there are plenty of opportunities for family members to dine with their loved ones too, including any special family events that might take place monthly or quarterly.
Spacious and Personalized Apartments
The entire community should feel like a large home, complete with libraries, outdoor spaces, and living rooms—but residents will still spend some time in their apartments, and these spaces are important, too. You want to find a memory care community that has designed apartments to reduce fall risk and confusion, in addition to feeling like home.
Look for a community that features multiple floor plan options, typically either a studio or one-bedroom layout. Ensure apartments are spacious enough and that there are opportunities to personalize the space with family photos, favorite artwork, or even an heirloom furniture piece that will make it feel just like home for your loved one.
Ask about security and safety, looking for emergency pull cords in the bathrooms and apartments, as well as locking mechanisms on the community doors to decrease the risk of unsafe wandering. You can also inquire about specific design details that reduce fall risk and increase comfort.
Engaging Events and Opportunities
Socialization with neighbors and team members is a key component to positive dementia care. Positive socialization and peer support can help residents thrive in exceptional communities.
However, all that healthy socialization doesn’t just happen on its own. It takes a dedicated effort from the team.
When you are on your tour, look for residents interacting and engaging with one another over a puzzle, reading a book in the library, watering plants in the garden, or participating in a group activity. Ask to see a copy of the community’s monthly event calendar and ensure there are multiple programs happening throughout the day.
Programs should also be offered in the evenings and weekends. Look for a variety of options that might include live concerts, socials, reminiscing groups, exercise classes, and craft workshops.
Last but not least, ask if residents have the opportunity to take excursions at least monthly to favorite spots in the community. These trips are wonderful ways for residents to remain a part of the greater community. You can even ask if family members can meet residents while out and about or if you could volunteer to assist with any onsite programs.
Specially Trained Team Members
The true magic of memory care communities comes from the team members who work there. These professionals are not only in charge of caring for residents, but also for creating personalized and positive interactions throughout the day to meet the needs of every resident.
When you tour a community, observe team members and how they interact with residents and with one another. Ask what types of training in dementia best practices are required prior to starting in the community, as well as what types of ongoing education are offered.
The bottom line: Educated caregivers are empowered caregivers, and empowered caregivers are problem-solvers who give exceptional care.
Schedule Your Memory Care Tour
Knowing what to look for and which questions to ask during your memory care tour can help you make a more confident decision. However, you might not get all the information you need from only one pass through the community. Consider asking the community if you can return for a second visit or if you can bring your loved one to experience a meal or event there.
Finally, ensure you are talking candidly about costs of care now and in the future. You can find out more about memory care pricing by downloading our free resource, The Insider’s Guide to Memory Care Pricing.